New York State Constitutional Convention

ConCon
The New York State Constitution mandates that every 20 years voters will be asked the following question: “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?” The next referendum will be held on November 7, 2017. It presents a constitutional choice of profound importance; a once in a generation opportunity for the State to reinvent itself.  We will not have this opportunity again for another 20 years.

To help lay the foundation for a serious and thoughtful public dialogue regarding the mandatory referendum, the New York State Bar Association established the Committee on the New York Constitution. Henry M. Greenberg of Albany chairs the committee. Its distinguished members are listed on committee roster.

The New York State Bar Association has not taken a position on the referendum question. 

Reports
News Releases
Videos
Resources
Archives

REPORTS
The committee has issued a series of nonpartisan, informational reports dealing with issues that might be considered at a possible constitutional convention. The reports have been approved by the House of Delegates of the New York State Bar Association.

The Judiciary Article of the New York State Constitution–Opportunities to Restructure and Modernize the New York Courts, January 27, 2017
New York’s Unified Court System was established the 1960s. “Despite its name,” the report observes, “the Unified Court System is anything but—with its patchwork quilt of 11 different trial-level courts and multiple levels of appellate courts.” It is the nation’s most complex court, resulting in added costs and delays for litigants. The report identifies more than a dozen issues that would be “ripe” for consideration at a constitutional convention. 

The Conservation Article in the State Constitution (Article XIV), November 5, 2016 
In 1894, New York voters ratified a constitutional amendment that mandates that the state Forest Preserve in the Adirondacks and Catskills be kept “forever wild.” Since then, the report notes, there has never been broad-based support for repealing the measure.  In 1969, voters approved what was intended to be a “Conservation Bill of Rights,” which is largely unenforceable.  The report also points to obsolete aspects of Article XIV.  

Constitutional Home Rule, April 2, 2016 (State-local government relationships) 
In theory, Constitutional Home Rule grants authority to local governments to decide how to best govern their communities in matters of local concern. However, over the years, those protections have been eroded by actions of the state Legislature (such as imposing unfunded mandates on localities) and judicial decisions. Without taking sides in the debate, the report says Constitutional Home Rule is an issue “ripe for consideration and debate for all concerned.” 

The Establishment of a Preparatory State Commission on a Constitutional Convention, November 7, 2015
The New York State Constitution, about six times longer than the U.S. Constitution, establishes the structure of state government, enumerates rights of individuals and governs our courts, schools, local governments, public finance and the daily lives on New Yorkers. It requires that voters be asked every 20 years whether to hold a convention to examine if the state Constitution should be revised. Prior to November 7, 2017 vote, the report urges state officials to create a nonpartisan preparatory commission to educate the public about the complex issues involved.  


NEWS RELEASES
February 16, 2017: Simplifying State's Court System Is 'Ripe' Topic For Possible Constitutional Convention, Says State Bar

December 8, 2016: Forever Wild Clause of NYS Constitution Unlikely to be Altered by Possible Constitutional Convention, Says State Bar Association

June 24, 2016: Governor Cuomo Should Establish Commission on Constitution to Prepare for 2017 Vote, Says New York State Bar Association 

April 11, 2016: Governor Cuomo Asked by New York State Bar Association to Prepare for 2017 Vote on State Constitution

April 5, 2016: Balance of Power Between New York State and Local Governments has Shifted, Needs Further Study, Says State Bar Association 

November 13, 2015: New York State Bar Association Calls on State Government to Prepare Now for Statewide Vote on State Constitution in 2017

July 24, 2015: New York State Bar Association President Miranda Forms Committee to Study NYS Constitution 


VIDEOS

NY Constitutional Convention: How Our State Constitution Impacts the Practice of Law, September 26, 2016: This CLE program focused on  on the potential impact a Constitutional Convention may have on the legal profession and the public at large. 

How Our State Constitution Impacts the Practice of Law and the Lives of New Yorkers, January 27, 2016
. The 2016 Presidential Summit of the Annual Meeting featured a panel with  Dr. Gerald Benjamin, SUNY at New Paltz; Professor Richard Briffault, Columbia Law School; Henry M. Greenberg of Albany (Greenberg Traurig), chair of the Association’s Committee on the New York State Constitution; and  Richard Ravitch, former lieutenant governor of New York. 

Boot Camp for Journalists, December 7, 2015.  Five leading authorities discuss the state Constitution and the convention process. It was co-sponsored by the New York State Bar Association, the Rockefeller Institute of Government, Government  Law Center of Albany Law School, State League of Women Voters, Siena Research Institute and New York News Publishers Association.

House of Delegates, November 7, 2015.  Excerpts of discussion about convening a constitutional convention and the need for a preparatory commission.

Past State Bar President David P. Miranda announces the Committee on the New York State Constitution, July 24, 2015.


RESOURCES
The New York State Constitution 

Making a Modern Constitution: The Prospects for Constitutional Reform in New York (2016), 414 pages. Edited by Rose Mary Bailly and Scott Fein, Government Law Center of Albany Law School.  Published by the New York State Bar Association, 2016.  Download a free digital copy or purchase a paper copy here.

New York State Constitutional Convention 2017, Rockefeller Institute of Government


ARCHIVES
Changing New York's Constitution, Capital Tonight (March 10, 2016
)

David Miranda, Capital Tonight (November 20, 2015)

David Miranda, Capital Tonight (July 29, 2015)